Poll: Public ranks global health lesser priority behind terrorism, human rights and climate change

A majority of Americans want the U.S. to either lead or take a major role in trying to solve international problems, including improving health for people in developing countries, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey of the public's views on America's role in global health.

However, for the ways in which the U.S. might engage in world affairs, improving the health for people in developing countries is not the public's top priority.

Here are eight findings from the survey.

1. When it comes to world affairs, a majority of Americans listed fighting terrorism (64 percent), protecting human rights (60 percent), and protecting the environment and fighting climate change (51 percent) as top priorities for the president and Congress.

2. Global health, however, ranked somewhat lower on the public's priority list, with 35 percent of Americans saying it is one of the top priorities for U.S. engagement in world affairs, and 51 percent listing it as an important priority.

3. Although improving health for people in developing countries is not among the public's list of top priorities for world affairs, two issues related to health — hunger and clean water — are named by the largest shares of Americans as the most urgent problems facing developing countries, according to the survey.

4. When asked what the most urgent problem is facing developing countries today, 25 percent of Americans name hunger or lack of food, followed closely by 23 percent who mention clean water. When asked what the most urgent healthproblem facing developing countries is, the top two responses are similar: 28 percent name hunger or malnutrition and 22 percent name clean water.

5. The focus on clean water and reducing hunger is also evident in opinions about priorities for U.S. efforts to improve health in developing countries. Topping the list, 69 percent of Americans believe improving access to clean water should be one of the top priorities. This is slightly more than the percent who believe combating global outbreaks of diseases like Ebola and Zika (62 percent), improving children's health (61 percent) and reducing hunger and malnutrition (61 percent) are top health priorities. Farther down the list are preventing and treating HIV/AIDS (50 percent), preventing and treating malaria (44 percent) and building and improving hospitals and other healthcare facilities (44 percent).

6. When asked about the success of U.S. global health efforts to date, the majority of the public (67 percent) believes over the past decade, at least some progress has been made as a result of U.S. efforts to improve the health for people in developing countries, though relatively few (12 percent) feel "a lot" of progress has been made.

7. When asked about efforts to combat Zika, 58 percent of Americans who have heard or read about the Zika virus believe the U.S. is doing enough to protect Americans from the virus, while 26 percent believe the U.S. is not doing enough.

8. Eight in ten Americans have heard or read at least something about the Zika virus. A majority of this group support a wide range of efforts to combat the virus's rapid spread, saying the U.S. should invest resources to prevent Zika's spread in the U.S. (90 percent), invest more money in research on the virus (83 percent), help women in countries with outbreaks access birth control (77 percent) and provide financial aid to countries with outbreaks (72 percent).


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